Saudi minister of Culture, prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, announced the launch of the program in December 2019.
“Students across the region are becoming more aware of a greater choice of degree programs”
It will provide scholarships to male and female students who want to study culture and arts courses at international institutions.
Courses that fall under the cultural scholarship program include archaeology, design, museums, music, theatre, filmmaking, literature, visual arts and culinary arts and can be taken at PhD, bachelor’s and master’s degree levels.
“The program aims at developing Saudi culture… as well as to meet the growing labour market needs,” said the minister.
Imad Chaoui, regional director, Middle East, IDP Education, told The PIE that IDP and Hotcourses global traffic data indicated a spike in Saudi students searching for creative arts courses.
“The ministry’s announcement of the new cultural scholarship program appears to have been well received by students based in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he said.
“Looking across IDP’s global platform of international course search websites, we have seen early shifts in the courses KSA students are researching.
“In the week since the announcement, we have seen an increase in the proportion of students in KSA searching for creative arts, social studies and media courses.”
Chaoui added that KSA has a strong history of connecting students with international education.
“We believe this announcement will further help connect KSA students with global opportunities.”
MENA university search platform UNIVER also noted an increased interest in arts courses. Subjects currently trending on UNIVER include architecture, film, music and fashion.
“Students across the region are becoming more aware of a greater choice of degree programs in the arts and humanities and moving away for the typical choices of engineering and business,” said Amanda Gregory COO, UNIVER, and Ahmad Abu Shaikha CEO, UNIVER & Alpha International in a statement.
“Leading global universities have an unprecedented opportunity to recruit fully funded students to study everything from Fashion through to Film-making.
“As Saudi and the wider Gulf region continues to diversify… we see the Saudi sponsorship program as the beginning of a long period of growth in the international student recruitment market,” they added.
Summer Abdelsamei, education consultant MENA region for SI-UK, said the company is planning on opening new channels with the Saudi market.
“[The program] will allow lots of Saudi students to achieve their dreams and put their country on the top of the global tourism map,” she told The PIE.
“The new scholarship is a huge jump toward a developed artistic culture… as part of the culture development plan that has started in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently.”
The Saudi Ministry of Culture has been busy with this cultural development plan, recently launching an artist in residency program in Jeddah to grow the local arts scene and foster cultural exchange.
Gregory and Abu Shaikha also told The PIE about the country’s developmental strategy over the coming decade.
“[The program] will allow lots of Saudi students to achieve their dreams”
“As Saudi Arabia continues in its efforts to welcome international visitors through the introduction of the tourism visa, encourage trade and diversify the economy in line with Vision 2030, it is natural to look at cultural development as a major part of the country’s development,” they said.
“Across the Gulf, one of the most recent cultural successes was the opening of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi in 2017, and with Dubai hosting Expo 2020 later this year, the region is becoming a global leader in the importance of culture for future development.”
Saudi Arabia has a long history of funding scholarships, with it’s King Abdullah Scholarship Program sponsoring over 100,000 students in the US alone since 1960.
However, the funding of Saudi students in international institutions has not always been easy. In 2018 Saudi students were caught up in a diplomatic spat between Saudi Arabia and Canada.